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Rescue teams race to find Chinese cruise ship survivors

Overnight a Chinese river cruise ship rolled over during stormy weather. Hundreds of people, mostly older retirees, are still missing; 15 people have been found alive so far. John Sparks of Independent Television News reports on the search efforts.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    A frantic rescue effort continued all day in China, for hundreds of people on a river cruise out of Nanjing. Their ship rolled over during stormy weather last night, and so far, only 15 people have been found alive.

    John Sparks of Independent Television News has our report.

  • JOHN SPARKS:

    From the murky depths of the Yangtze River, a woman appears surrounded by a team of professional divers.

    She's weak on her feet, but very much alive, the woman, 65 years old, one of a small number of survivors from a cruise ship called the Eastern Star, which capsized in a storm overnight. The divers found her near the upturned bow sheltering in an air pocket 15 meters below the surface.

    There remains, however, more than 400 people unaccounted for, the vast majority retirees on a 13-day cruise, and emergency personnel have struggled. They heard voices inside the ship this morning, this man responding by tapping his hammer.

    Later, they tried to cut a hole through the ship's hull, but poor weather and strong currents have hampered their efforts. Tonight, the head of the rescue effort said his team were in a race against time. "The incident happened very suddenly," said Yang Chuatan, "but we will give it 100 percent."

    The Chinese prime minister, Li Keqiang, also on TV today, here taking charge of the rescue effort. It's a public relations gesture in part from Communist Party officials worried how about the public and the victims' families will react.

    For desperate relatives, there was little information to be had. In Nanjing, the travel company said only that staff had gone to the accident site.

  • MAN (through interpreter):

    There's just the notice on the door. We don't know if they're alive.

  • JOHN SPARKS:

    And the authorities, well, they have a maritime catastrophe on their hands. Still, details from the scene will be tightly controlled with journalists being kept away from the site.

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